Nehalem - Everything You Need to Know about Intel's New Architectureby Anand Lal Shimpi on November 3, 2008 1:00 PM EST
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Nehalem was a key focus at this year’s IDF, and in the coming months we should see its availability in the market. You’ll need a new motherboard and CPU, and maybe even new memory, but if you’re running well threaded applications Nehalem won’t disappoint.
Designed from the start to really tackle Intel’s weaknesses in the server market, it makes sense why the first Nehalem scheduled to launch is the high end, quad-core, dual QPI, triple-channel version. The overall architecture is very reminiscent of Barcelona, which does lend credibility to AMD’s direction with its latest core - at least in the enterprise space.
Thanks to the past few years of multi-core development on the desktop, Nehalem should see some impressive gains there as well - again from threaded applications.
The biggest changes with Nehalem are actually the ones that took place behind the scenes. The fundamental changes in design decisions requiring that each expenditure of additional power come at dramatic corresponding increase in performance, is a huge step for Intel. It’s the same design mentality used on the lowest power Intel cores (Atom), which is impressive for Intel’s highest performing Nehalem cores.
We can’t help but be excited about Nehalem as the first tock since the Core 2 processor arrived, but we do wonder what’s next. Much of the performance gains with Nehalem are due to increases in bandwidth and HT, we’ll have to wait two more years to find out what Intel can do to surprise us once more. As Pat Gelsinger told me when AMD integrated the memory controller, he said you can only do that once - what do you do to improve performance next?
While Larrabee will be the focus of Intel’s attention in 2009, Sandy Bridge in 2010 is the next tock to look forward to. Until then, Nehalem should do wonders for Intel’s competitiveness in the enterprise market, and actually be a worthy successor to Conroe on the desktop.
The only other concern I have about Nehalem is how things will play out with the two-channel DDR3 versions of the chip. They will require a different socket and as we saw in the days of Socket-940/939/754 with AMD’s K8, it can easily be a painful process. I do hope that Intel has learned from AMD’s early issues with platforms and K8, it would be a shame if initial Nehalem adopters were eventually left out in the cold. If Intel does launch an affordable 2.66GHz quad-core part, I don’t expect that the enthusiast market will be left out but I’m not much of a fortune teller.
So there you have it, a more complete look at Nehalem - the only thing we’re missing is a full performance review. Intel launches in Q4 of this year, so you know when to expect one...